Exercise and emotion dynamics: An experience sampling study.

Though it has been widely demonstrated that regular exercise is associated with better emotional wellbeing, the nature of this association remains unclear. The present study explored the relationship between voluntary exercise and the temporal dynamics of daily emotions, and thus how voluntary exercise could be impacting emotional reactivity and recovery in naturalistic contexts. Seventy-six young adults participated simultaneously in this ecological momentary assessment study, and received 75 prompts over the course of 15 days. Emotional inertia (persistence of emotional states), emotional variability (intensity of emotional fluctuations), and emotional instability (tendency for emotional fluctuations) were considered. Past research has shown that low wellbeing tends to be associated with high inertia, variability, and instability. Each prompt included ratings of present emotions (anxiety, sadness, cheerfulness, contentment) and any recent physical activity. Greater average exercise time was significantly associated with less inertia (reduced autocorrelation) of anxiety. Exercise was not significantly associated with inertia of the other emotions, although results were in the same direction. Exercise habits were unrelated to emotional variability and instability. Results suggest that exercise may buffer against prolonged or persistent negative affective states and consequently could benefit a person’s ability to self-regulate or recover from changes in the environment and internal emotional experiences, rather than simply reducing the frequency or intensity of anxious emotions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)